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Peasant Metropolis: Social Identities in Moscow, 1929-1941 (Studies of the Harriman Institute) Paperback – 24 Mar 2000


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"In his engrossing study of the social, political, and economic effects of the peasant influx into Moscow, David Hoffmann demonstrates from a vast array of evidence how on the one hand the long-standing tradition of migration assisted industrialization by directing peasant labor to factories and construction work but on the other the shape of that workforce was in the hands of village networks rather than official recruitment programs. . . . With scholarship as penetrating as it is original, Hoffmann shows quite dramatically that . . . the Soviet industrial system . . . never achieved 'rationalized and routinized production.'" John Erickson, The Times Higher Education Supplement"

"Hoffmann develops a clear argument from beginning to end, he presents strong supporting evidence, and he writes well. His subject is the massive migration of Soviet peasants from village to city during the 1930s . . . . His book is a major contribution to our understanding of the creation of Soviet society and of Soviet industry." John Bushnell, The Journal of Economic History"

"Just as the subjects of his study span the village and the city, Hoffmann has bridged the chasms between the literature on workers and on peasants. He also places his study in the context of literature on migration, class, and identity formation." Journal of Social History"

"It is the first study to place the Soviet experience of peasant in-migration during the 1930s into a European and even global context . . . ." International Labor and Working-Class History"

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x902a05d0) out of 5 stars 1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f94c558) out of 5 stars Good survey of Soviet foundations 26 Dec. 2009
By R. L. Huff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book recreates the "immigrant" experience of peasant workers in Moscow during the first two Five Year Plans, the era of the "Great Break." Here was laid the foundations of the Soviet system as we came to know and love it for the next sixty years.

As alluded, the story of peasant migrants come to the big city reminds me strongly of immigrants who came to New York, Chicago, and other big industrial US cities a generation before. The same dislocation, the same clannishness, the same rivalries between the established and the greenhorn. What also emerges is the rise of Stalin as political boss and Stalinism as a Russian variant of big-city bossism. The social base - immigrants and their upwardly-mobile offspring - was strikingly identical and goes far to explain Stalinism as a social phenomena, beyond the "cult of personality" or ideological wrangles with right or left party opponents.

At one crucial statement I do disagree with Professor Hoffmann, when he states on page 106 that "The Soviet industrial system, with its undisciplined worforce, weakened management, and Party and police interference, never achieved rationalized and routinized production." These same handicaps plagued American industry some 30 years before, but were overcome by expanding industry and the education and adaption of the workforce. As Stephen Kotkin shows in "Magnetic Mountain," tracing this same Stalinist pattern in the creation of the Magnitogortsk Complex, Stalinism hammered out a very credible industrial civilization; while Michael Burawoy's work experience in socialist Hungary showed a "rationalized and routinized production" regime equal to that of American factories where he'd earlier worked.

But altogether a useful contribution to the school of "Stalinist studies."
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